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3 comics created by military veterans that help us understand war.

Cartoonists and veterans are working together to heal the wounds of war, and it's beautiful.

The tiny town of White River Junction, Vermont, is home to two big institutions: the White River Junction VA Medical Center and the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Historically, the veterans and cartoonists haven’t had much to do with each other. But a few years ago, James Sturm, the director of the Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS), decided that they should start.

So he brought his paper and pencils to the rec room at the VA and asked the veterans to tell him their stories.


Sturm is part of a larger movement called graphic medicine, the idea that comics have a universal language of signs and symbols that can help patients more effectively communicate their stories.

He believes sharing stories can both heal patients and create a better health care system.

During his time at the VA, Sturm discovered that comics are a powerful medium for working with post-traumatic stress disorder, in particular.

“PTSD is the inability to integrate past and present, which has a devastating effect on the future,” Sturm said. But comics help people literally visualize time, so they can help veterans break down complex histories into manageable chunks.

“Each panel is a discrete unit of time,” he elaborates. “And when you put 8, 9, 10 panels on a page, you’re integrating the past, present, and future into a ... whole.”

Last fall, Sturm gathered a group of cartooning students and veterans and encouraged them to collaborate on a volume of oral histories.

“When I Returned” is the resulting book, and it visually demonstrates the disorienting experience of PTSD, as well as the ways the past and the present collide in every moment.

All images via James Sturm, used with permission.

In the opening story, cartoonist Jeff Lok shows us in six simple panels how PTSD works:

While driving in his car, Vince moves back and forth between New England and Iraq, the past and present compressing together. We travel with him from a dusty New Hampshire road to a morgue in Iraq.

Although cartoonist and veteran Mike Rodriguez hasn’t been diagnosed with PTSD, he also lives with the daily reminders of his time in Iraq.

His story is in the book, too:

“I’ll always remember when I got ambushed for like three hours,” he said. ”I was stuck in this position where I had to play dead. ... You don’t ever forget that. It’s part of you.”

In his comic, which he drew himself, images of Fallujah are the constant backdrop to his everyday life in New Hampshire. They linger in the background as he socializes, works as a librarian, and draws at his drafting table.

Every panel communicates the disorientation of moving from a military to a civilian life.

The heart of the book is “Kevin’s Story,” a deeply intimate account of a man’s sexual assault and recovery.

Kevin’s trauma occurred off the battlefield, after he returned from Germany to small-town New Hampshire. On New Year’s Eve 1981, he was raped by a group of strangers in a snowy field. He went home, burned his clothes, and kept his story a secret for the next three decades.

“I come from an old-school family in northern New Hampshire,” he explained. “And we’re the kind where you suck it up and deal with it, and I did it for 32 years.” But then his secret started literally making him sick.

For these men, comics were a powerful part of their healing processes.

Kevin's therapist was using a technique called prolonged exposure therapy, in which he tells his story over and over again to become desensitized to it. And even though he’d told it to her dozens of times, until he sat down with comic students J.D. Lunt and Kelly Swann, he’d never told anybody else.

“I was watching them and looking at their eyes and wondering how they were going to tell [my] story,” he remembered. “I get really worried about what people are going to think and what they’re going to say. But the feedback and response has been unreal. Nobody looks down on me, nobody thinks any different about me, people are saying how proud they are that I shared my story.”

It’s a profound relief for him that his story is out there and he can’t go back into hiding. “It gets lighter and easier all the time,” he says.

Chaplain and cartoonist Kurt F. Shaffert is volunteering at the White River Junction VA and practicing what he calls process cartooning, a system he developed during his eight years working at the Connecticut VA.

During his 15-minute visits with patients, he uses stick figures to help them access what's on their mind quickly and effectively. He finds that when he asks veterans to narrate stick figures, they can “express the inexpressible.”

Comics, Shaffert believes, are the language we need when we talk about war experiences because they’re physical and visual and funny and tragic and profound all at the same time.

“Extraordinary experiences require extraordinary language,” he said.

“Anybody who’s experienced PTSD has experienced things that are outside of everyday experience. ... In order to be able to process events that are traumatic, you need to find ... a form of communication that deals with the immature, the impolite, the gross, the grotesque, the obnoxious, the obscene."

Although researchers haven’t yet studied the effectiveness of comics for treating PTSD, it’s similar to other methods like art therapy and narrative therapy, which are already being used successfully with veterans.

Clinicians and staff members at the White River Junction VA are enthusiastic about this project and excited about future collaborations and the healing potential of cartooning. They hope other VA centers will start using comics for good, too.

Image via Kurt Shaffert.

Maybe starting to heal can be as simple as drawing a stick figure in a hospital room on an ordinary white piece of paper.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!

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This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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